Friday, September 26, 2008

Instant Yooper

The people who live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (or the U.P.) are called "Yoopers." And they're proud of it. The people who live to the south, under the Mackinac Bridge, are called "Trolls." Since they don't know they're called trolls, they don't mind.

Lots of trolls dream about moving to the U.P., but every Yooper will tell you that there's no work to be found in the U.P. This means trolls like us only get visit the U.P., where we relax, enjoy, spend our cash, then move along. But while in the U.P. every troll is a Yooper. Just add beer.

Where is Yooperland? It balances atop the the fingertip of Michigan's lower peninsula, connected by the Mackinac Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.

How do you get to Yooperland? First you shake off the beatnick heel of Motown and weave your horseless carriage northward. In our case, we passed through Grand Rapids, MI, my sort-of ancestral home*. Though most of my Michigan family has passed along, we were able to see my uncle Mark, my father's youngest brother.

It was a brief but immensily enjoyable visit. We wished we had more time to visit, but we were just passing through and Uncle Mark had to hurry back to work (he has a very large family of his own to support**). On a road trip like ours, we are obliged to everyone who shares their time with us, and we're happy for what we can get.

Out of booming Grand Rapids metro area, the rolling farmlands open up along with the roadside fruit stands. It's not Yooper country, but it's the next sweetest place.

But then we crossed over the Mackinack Bridge and entered into a land of wonderful wilderness, the edge of the world hanging out there
like a rawhide flap of the old frontier, outposted from the swirl of mainstream America.

We strolled on the beaches of the greatest lakes in the world...

... picnicked in small towns nested beside pristine bays, where the difference between the buses and the boats are more a matter of style than sunstance.

Hey yah there, sure you betcha. The U.P. is one of those kind of places...

And we wondered what those Yoopers do up here, all year 'round? We asked around and learned that in the winter they shovel snow and in the summer they swat mosquitoes. During the spring and fall they rest up for swatting and shoveling.

This begs the question: What do Yooper-Trolls do up there? In the winter they stay down south where it's warm and in the summer they travel somewhere that's airconditioned. During the spring and fall they travel to the U.P and sit around and don't at all think about swatting and shoveling...

In fact, they don't think about much of anything at all.

*This is a long and shaggy story that only members of my family would enjoy reading. And since my family already knows all of the shaggy details, the story is not one that bears repeating here.

**This is an even longer and truly inspiring story that bears telling. I will leave it for my Uncle Mark to tell his own story. If he cares to write up the story of his family and send it to me, I'll post it on this blog.


  1. The plodding dutchmanSeptember 28, 2008 at 7:26 PM

    Ancestral home:
    Boiled spuds (with skins)
    Bears in the basement
    Good behavior

  2. Don't forget:
    windmill cookies
    party time in the church basement
    paratroopers on the front porch